Build Resilience to Cope with Arthritis
Learn to keep going mentally and physically in spite of the pain and anger that may come with adversity.
Resilience is the ability to learn from and rebound from challenges, adversity and stress.
When you’re resilient, you’re able to keep going mentally and physically in spite of the pain, grief and anger that may come with adversity. You can look beyond the problem and draw on constructive coping mechanisms like optimism, acceptance and determination. With that mindset, you can get past setbacks without giving in to hopelessness and frustration.
Developing resilience is especially important for those with arthritis, says Robert Wicks, PsyD, a professor at Loyola College in Maryland and author of Bounce: Living the Resilient Life. “Chronic disease poses regular, and often immense, psychological and physical setbacks,” he says. “You have to be able to cope with them in order to care for yourself. Resilience is the difference between making arthritis one part of your story and [allowing it to be] your entire narrative."
A Remedy for Pain
“Resilience impacts thoughts and, therefore, behavior in profound ways,” says Chicago-based psychologist and physical therapist Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD. “A less resilient person experiencing a flare might think, ‘Well, I can’t exercise,’ or ‘My doctor isn’t helping me enough.’ A resilient individual thinks, ‘How can I improve my situation? What can I do to get moving again?’”
Build Your Resilience
Try these strategies to build your resilience – and bounce back better:
Focus on the upside - Studies show that optimism is part and parcel of resilience; the more hopeful you feel, the more resilient you’ll be. Boosting your optimism requires you to reframe your experience so you’re aware of the negative, but focused on the positive. Ask yourself three questions: “Does this provide new opportunities? Can I look at this differently? Is there any good to come out of it?"
Learn from experience - If you have a chronic disease, you’re already more resilient than you probably give yourself credit for. When you’re dealing with a new setback, that’s the time to ask yourself, “How have I dealt with problems in the past? What worked, and which strategies should I skip this time?”
Expand your knowledge - Ask lots of questions when you’re at the rheumatologist’s office, and regularly read up on arthritis and health. The more you learn about how best to live with your condition, the more control you have. Control and resourcefulness give you confidence to move forward.
Find your bliss - Make time to find and do things you love. Joy, satisfaction and interest can give you a mental time out from stress and boost your optimism.
Get moving - In addition to its physical benefits, exercise decreases anxiety and depression, improves sleep, and increases the levels of mood-improving chemicals in your brain.
Seek support - Support systems are a linchpin of resilience. “If you don’t feel like you have to go it alone, it’s much easier to push forward when the going gets tough,” explains Wicks. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Chances are, your loved ones want to help and are simply waiting for you to ask.
Count your blessings - People who express gratitude or regularly write in a gratitude journal feel more connected, autonomous, optimistic and happy – traits that contribute to resilience. “Gratitude makes you think about what you have, which, in turn, keeps you from focusing on what you don’t have,” says Wicks. “When you feel blessed, it’s easier to keep going – no matter what you’re up against.”
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